Here in the UK, you never can quite trust the weather. It might be glorious sunshine one minute, and before you know it, the rain is coming down in buckets. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your tent is properly waterproofed.
With the summer months on their way, you could be planning your first outdoors trip for a while – and so you’ll want to make sure there are no nasty surprises lying in wait when you pitch up at your campsite.
The good news is that most tents are either covered in a waterproof membrane or treated with some kind of waterproofing agent in order to stop moisture soaking through the fabric.
However, after a while, this coating will wear away and it will need replacing with tent waterproofing spray – if you don’t then you and your things could wake up a bit soggy after a downpour!
Read on find out everything about waterproofing your tent, and be ready for anything nature can throw at you, in spring, summer or winter…
Here’s a quick guide to the best way to waterproof a tent:
- Pick a warm, dry day if possible
- Carefully clean all parts of the tent
- Seal the seams
- Refresh the urethane coating
- Refresh the DWR (durable water repellent) coating
- Leave all parts to dry
But of course you want something a bit more detailed than that, so here’s our in-depth guide with a few handy hints and tips thrown in.
How often should you reproof your tent?
The waterproof coatings on your tent should last a while, so if you’ve only just bought it, then you shouldn’t need to apply any further coating.
It may become visibly noticeable that the coating on your tent is flaking off, at which point it will definitely need reapplying.
The best way to check is to simply test it yourself using a water spray. If the water doesn’t bead on the outside or you notice it soaking through at some places then it could do with reproofing.
How to re-seal the seams
Where the different parts of fabric have been stitched together is a prime spot for water to leak in, so it’s important you ensure the seams are well sealed. Like the rest of the tent, seams should have a waterproof coating, but this will wear away in time. Some seams may also have flaps covering them to protect them further.
- Choose a dry day outdoors or somewhere indoors, such as a garage, where you can apply the proofing materials and leave them to dry.
- Set up your tent – you will seal the seams on the inner side of the tent and underside of the fly sheet, so it’s easier if you turn the fly sheet inside out to make it easier to access.
- Carefully clean the seams using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth or sponge, removing any bits that are peeling off.
- Apply seam sealer as per the instructions on the product. Make sure you get the right type of seam sealer – polyurethane-coated materials need different seam sealer to silicone-treated one.
- Leave to dry.
Tip: Even if only a small part of the seam is letting in water or appears worn, it’s advisable to reproof as many of the seams as possible to be safe. If the seams are damaged or coming apart, then you’ll need to get them repaired.
How to re-apply the urethane coating
The urethane coating can flake off over time, so if you’ve noticed any flakes anywhere under the rainfly or on the floor of the tent, then you’ll need to apply a new coating.
- Layout the material on a dry, flat surface.
- Carefully scrub off the bits that are flaking.
- Apply a thin coating of tent sealant as per the product’s instructions. Again, make sure you get the right type of sealant for your tent.
- Leave to dry for at least 24 hours.
How to re-apply the DWR coating
The DWR (durable water repellent) is what makes water bead up on the outside of your flysheet and prevents it soaking through.
- Make sure the outside of your tent’s flysheet is clean, spraying it down with water if necessary – you don’t need to wait for it to dry.
- Apply tent waterproofing spray evenly over the fly.
- Wipe off any excess coating with a soft damp cloth.
- Leave to dry.
Waterproofing a polycotton tent
Polycotton tents and canvas tents are a little different to regular tents when it comes to waterproofing.
Although they have a water-repellent coating, they need weathering before you use them. This is because there are small holes where they’ve been stitched, which can let water in. By giving the tent a light hosing down, the weave tightens up and expands the material, making it more waterproof.
More tips for waterproofing your tent
Don’t rely on the weather
Even if you’re confident that you’re going to have perfect weather for the entirety of your camping trip, it’s always wise to ensure your tent is properly waterproofed.
You don’t know if the weather is going to suddenly change or if you’re going to have to take a detour and camp somewhere with less favourable weather.
You also need to be aware of early morning dew on your tent. If your tent isn’t water repellent, then the dew can soak through.
You may need more than one coat
If you know the weather is going to particularly inclement or has the potential to be, then it might be worth applying an extra waterproofing coat to make extra sure.
Leave your tent to dry after the first coat before applying the second.
Check your groundsheet
If your groundsheet isn’t up to scratch, then that could be a cause of water getting into your tent. Having a bathtub sewn-in groundsheet, where the groundsheet is part of the tent and the sides are turned up, is a great way of keeping water out.
Check the tent waterproof rating
The tent waterproof rating, also known as the hydrostatic head (HH), dictates just how waterproof the tent is.
The hydrostatic head shows the depth of a column of water the tent can withstand before it starts to leak through. For example, a tent with a 4,000mm HH would be able to keep a column of water 4,000mm deep.
As you’d expect, different tents have different hydrostatic head waterproof ratings. If you want a tent that is more waterproof, go for one with a higher HH.
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Last modified: April 16, 2020